Diving into the depths: Oakland Athletics

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Oakland Athletics
Rotation
1. Justin Duchscherer
2. Dallas Braden
3. Brett Anderson
4. Trevor Cahill
5. Gio Gonzalez
6. Dana Eveland
7. Vin Mazzaro
8. Clay Mortensen
9. Lenny DiNardo
10. James Simmons
Particularly since Duchscherer is such a question mark, the A’s could still really use another starter, preferably a durable one. Jarrod Washburn would make quite a bit of sense, considering that they’ve assembled an outstanding outfield defense.
The pickup of another starter would allow them to choose between Cahill and Gonzalez for one rotation spot. My preference would be to see Cahill get some Triple-A time. He’s still a fine bet for the long-term, but he has some things to work on. Also, Gonzalez has nothing left to prove in the minors. It’s time for him to sink or swim.
Bullpen
1. Andrew Bailey
2. Michael Wuertz
3. Brad Ziegler
4. Craig Breslow
5. Joey Devine
6. Jerry Blevins
7. Brad Kilby
8. John Meloan
9. Marcus McBeth
10. Henry Rodriguez
11. Sam Demel
12. Bobby Cassevah
The A’s expect Devine to be ready for the start of the season after Tommy John surgery last April. If that’s the case, he could overtake Ziegler for a setup role awfully quickly.
The big question here is whether the A’s will carry three left-handers. Breslow seems like a lock, and Blevins and Kilby are both deserving. I see this as a very strong top seven. However, if the A’s feel they need a long reliever, perhaps Eveland, then someone is going to get pushed back to Triple-A.


Catcher
1. Kurt Suzuki
2. Landon Powell
3. Josh Donaldson
First base
1. Daric Barton
2. Jake Fox
3. Eric Chavez
4. Chris Carter
5. Dallas McPherson
Second base
1. Mark Ellis
2. Aaron Miles
3. Eric Patterson
4. Gregorio Petit
Third base
1. Kevin Kouzmanoff
2. Eric Chavez
3. Jake Fox
4. Dallas McPherson
5. Aaron Miles
Shortstop
1. Cliff Pennington
2. Aaron Miles
3. Eric Chavez
4. Gregorio Petit
5. Corey Wimberly
The addition of Kouzmanoff settled Oakland’s lineup by sending Chavez to the bench and taking Hairston out of the outfield equation. I’m still not convinced it was the right direction for the team, but it cleared up some of the playing-time issues.
The A’s will have to figure out how to use Chavez and Fox now. Fox figures to play strictly against lefties if Chavez is healthy. He can get starts at first base over Barton and DH over Cust. Chavez apparently will be in the reserve mix at first base, shortstop and maybe in the outfield.
Left field
1. Rajai Davis
2. Jack Cust
3. Eric Patterson
4. Travis Buck
5. Matt Carson
Center field
1. Coco Crisp
2. Rajai Davis
3. Ryan Sweeney
4. Eric Patterson
5. Michael Taylor
Right field
1. Ryan Sweeney
2. Travis Buck
3. Jack Cust
4. Michael Taylor
5. Eric Patterson
Designated hitter
1. Jack Cust
2. Jake Fox
3. Eric Chavez
4. Landon Powell
5. Chris Carter
6. Dallas McPherson
I really didn’t think Davis would last as a regular over Hairston. Now he has a chance, though Patterson is another potentially superior option in left field. Also, Taylor could hit his way into the picture by June or July. He’ll probably play right field once he’s ready. If Sweeney is performing well enough to stay in the lineup, he can move to left.
Oakland’s bench is still up in the air. Powell is guaranteed a spot, and Fox should be. The Kouzmanoff addition would seem to suggest that McPherson won’t be a candidate for a job, even if Chavez starts off on the DL. It’s possible the A’s will just go ahead and release Miles, allowing them to keep both Chavez and Patterson. Chavez would serve as the backup shortstop and Patterson the backup second baseman in that scenario.

Joe West explains the fan interference call he clearly blew

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One of the biggest plays in a game full of big plays in last night’s Red Sox-Astros game was the call of fan interference that took a home run away from Jose Altuve.

Well, actually, it didn’t technically take a home run away, because right field umpire Joe West never called it a home run to begin with. He called it, sorta, tentatively, fan interference and it was thrown in the lap of replay officials.

For my part — and, it seems to me, for the part of most folks watching the game — West blew the call. The fan in question did not reach out onto the field of play — Mookie Betts‘ glove entered the stands — and the rules clearly state that no interference is called if a spectator comes in contact with a batted or thrown ball without reaching onto the field of play. It’s only if he or she reaches out onto the field. If the ball is in the stands, all’s fair in love and souvenir-snagging.

After the game, West was interviewed about the call. Here is how he explained it.

 

Q. What did you see that prompted the initial call of fan interference?
JOE WEST: Well, when he jumped up to reach for the ball, the spectator reached out of the stands and hit him over the playing field and closed his glove.

Q. So the ball had not yet crossed the railing?
JOE WEST: No.

Q. And Betts’ glove had not yet crossed the railing, do you believe?
JOE WEST: No.

Q. Okay. Did the fan —
JOE WEST: Here’s the whole play, here’s the whole play. He hit the ball to right field. He jumped up to try to make a catch. The fan interfered with him over the playing field. That’s why I called spectator interference.

Q. So it’s a clear call in your mind?
JOE WEST: Yes.

Q. Were there already — was there a single call that you saw, that the replay officials saw on replay that confirmed —
JOE WEST: I don’t know what he saw. He just — the replay official said I was right.

Q. Okay.
JOE WEST: That’s all. He said I have nothing that can change it.

That last bit is not entirely true, by the way. They didn’t say, specifically, that West was right. Rather, they could not find sufficient evidence to overturn West, so the call stood. Which is an important distinction: if the ruling was that West was definitively correct, the ruling would’ve been that West’s call was “confirmed.” That is not what they said. They said the call “stands,” which meant that they didn’t have enough evidence to overturn West.

That’s a different issue in its entirety, by the way: the deference given to the field umpires and the high burden replay officials have to overturn them. Here, I suspect it was a matter of them not having sufficient camera angles establishing that the fan had not reached onto the field. I think that’s nuts given what even the primary view and some basic common sense showed — Betts did not run to the wall and then jump straight up, failing to break the plane into the stands — but the current replay system places a high burden on replay guys overruling the field umpires.

That whole setup is dumb. This is not the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and guys like Joe West should not be treated like District Court judges to whom deference should always be granted. Replay officials have better views almost every single time and they should be able to simply substitute their judgment rather than meet some high burden aimed, I suspect, at making field umpires feel like they’re not losing power now that baseball takes a 21st century approach to officiating rather than a 19th century approach.

Unfortunately for the Astros, that is not how the replay rule works. Unfortunately for the Astros, Joe West’s judgment was to be deferred to. Unfortunately for the Astros, West blew that call and, unfortunately for the Astros, it cost them a two-run homer that could’ve changed the outcome of this game.